With Sven Michel’s 6th-minute goal, Union Berlin did just enough to achieve another feat on Thursday night. They advanced to the Europa League knockout round playoffs by narrowly defeating Union Saint-Gilloise in Belgium on the final group matchday.
|Photo: Steffen Prößdorf, CC BY-SA 4.0|
Without many of their passionate traveling supporters in Belgium, Union Berlin faced Union Saint-Gilloise to extend their stay in the Europe League. A win was essential and the German side, who scored just four goals in six group matches, took care of business on Matchday 6.
For a team that’s been struggling for goals in Europe, Union started quickly with Sheraldo Becker’s outside the boot pass that found Sven Michel on the volley. The 6th-minute goal was nearly doubled from a corner minutes later, but Danilho Doekhi’s header was too high.
As the first half wore on, the Belgian club grew in confidence and nearly scored just before halftime. Becker was on a yellow card heading into the second half, with Union barely holding onto their slim advantage.
For the second 45, Lennart Grill replaced Frederik Rønnow, who was forced off due to an injury. Union knew they simply needed to hold onto their lead with Braga beating Malmö in the other Group D match.
Grill played well and made an impressive save on a near-post effort from Union Saint-Gilloise’s Bart Nieuwkoop in the 59th minute. Then, Becker was through on goal to double their advantage seconds later, but couldn’t get his shot past the Belgian keeper.
Urs Fischer’s side sat deep, wasted time and somehow kept out all of Union Saint-Gilloise’s late chances. Union incredibly advanced by allowing just two goals to keep four clean sheets in group play.
The Bundesliga league leaders have booked their place in the Europe League knockout round playoffs next year where they will face a team from the Champions League.
The loss doesn’t affect Union Saint-Gilloise, who won the group, while 3rd-place Braga are off to the Conference League even with their victory over Malmö.
Union face Leverkusen, Augsburg and Freiburg before the World Cup break.